Stu Murray, the former head of the provincial Tories and the new boss of the Canadian Human Rights Museum is having a rough start in his new job. He's come under fire from gay and lesbian groups for voting against extending adoption rights back in the day, and not having a particularly well-prepared explanation for how that jibes with being an international advocate for human rights. In a speedy bit of damage control, it sounds like Murray and the human rights museum folks are meeting ASAP with anyone remotely gay to smooth things over, as well they should.
I think Murray made it pretty clear then and now that he personally supports gay rights -- though, in a nifty interview by CBC Radio's Margaux Watt the other day, he refused to say how he'd vote if he had the chance again today. But the whole episode makes me think three things:
- Murray was not well briefed. He should have had a clever and decisive reply to the gay rights question, because it was inevitable. And he should have had a better answer to the "what experience do you have in the human rights field" question. His answer to that one amounted to: I lived near a reserve and went to Israel once.
- When it comes right down to it, Murray got into this pickle not because he doesn't know what's right but because he didn't lead. He personally favoured gay rights but caved to the rest of his more conservative caucus and party base that didn't. Instead, he should have recognized, as most governments and courts in Canada had started to, that gay rights are not only laid out in the Charter but, politically, voting against them doesn't help establish you as anything other than a backwater party with no hope of winning in Winnipeg. Murray should have whipped his caucus, the way one imagines Doer does on issues that matter. If he couldn't manage that, how is he going to manage when the Turks are REALLY MAD about a exhibit on the Armenian genocide?
- If any New Democrats out there are taking any glee in this whole debacle, I'd like to remind you of your party's mealy-mouthed record on gay rights. You only extended pension and death benefits to gays because the Supreme Court told you to. You only let gays adopt because you got an avalanche of criticism from inside and outside your party (and reportedly, a threat by openly-gay cabinet minister Jim Rondeau to resign). So no gloating.